Week 1 Fearless Predictions - AAC Sat. & Sun.

Posted Aug 30, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions - AAC, Saturday & Sunday

Week 1
- Thursday & Friday Games 
- (Purdue-Cincy, Temple-ND) Saturday & Sunday Games 

Purdue (0-0) at Cincinnati (0-0) Aug. 31, 12:00, ESPNU

Why You Should Give A Hoot: The ground will be broken on two new coaching staffs, one tasked with keeping the momentum going, while the other must get his new school to higher ground.

Tommy Tuberville voluntarily left Texas Tech for Cincinnati to replace new Tennessee head man Butch Jones. Tubby inherits one of college football's better-kept secrets, a school that's won at least a share of four of the last five Big East crowns. The Bearcats have one more shot to turn a title into a BCS bowl berth before the new American Athletic Conference gets officially demoted to a mid-major.

Darrell Hazell arrives in West Lafayette with an edict to pilot Purdue out of the ranks of the mediocre. It's been a decade since the Boilermakers lost fewer than five games in a season, and predecessor Danny Hope just couldn't get this team out of neutral. While Hazell is determined to elevate Purdue, his talent doesn't match up with a schedule that could be a confidence-crusher.
Why Purdue Might Win: Greg Hudson's defense has the parts on the first and the final lines of defense to be pretty feisty this fall. The line is solid and seasoned, with DT Bruce Gaston and DE Ryan Russell leading the push. In the secondary, CB Ricardo Allen and SS Landon Feichter have All-Big Ten ceilings. The Boilermakers' opening-day draw will be a Cincinnati attack still searching for more depth at the skill positions.
Why Cincinnati Might Win: Purdue must run the ball with Akeem Hunt in order to balance a marginal, Rob Henry-led passing game. But Hunt must first navigate one of the American's best linebacker units. The strength of the Bearcats' D is on the second level, where all-star Greg Blair, Florida State transfer Jeff Luc and speedy Nick Temple roam. Blair, in particular, is a tackling machine the size of some ends. If Hunt is neutralized, the Boilers' sputtering ways of last year will bleed into 2013.
Who To Watch Out For: Who gets the ball from Tubby? Sixth-year senior Brendon Kay was sharp late last year, but Munchie Legaux has stayed close throughout the offseason.

- Purdue's linebackers could be an issue in 2013. If they don't pursue and wrap up on Saturday, diminutive Cincy RB Ralph Abernathy IV will make them pay in the open field.

- Every quarterback in this one can make something out of nothing with his feet, a key factor for two teams that aren't rich in offensive playmakers.

- Easily the best matchup of the day will occur when the Bearcats are blocking the gifted Boilers' D-line. Purdue has Russell and Gaston, but Cincinnati returns all five starters, including all-leaguers Eric Lefeld and Austen Bujnoch.

What Will Happen: This second-ever meeting between Cincinnati and Purdue could wind up being a toss-up that's tight for all 60 minutes. The Bearcats are better, especially on offense, but not so much that the Boilermakers can't rally behind fiery pregame and halftime speeches from Hazell. Cincy has the better quarterback, Kay, who'll help avoid the upset with a couple of late gut-check drives.
Prediction: Cincinnati 26 … Purdue 21
Line: Cincinnati -10.5 o/u: 50.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 3

Temple (0-0) at Notre Dame (0-0) Aug. 31, 3:30, NBC

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Time to start climbing back up the mountain. Since crafting a perfect season in 2012, Notre Dame has suffered two crippling blows, a 42-14 BCS National Championship Game and the academic suspension of QB Everett Golson. Neither, the Irish hope, will prevent it from contending for another major January bowl game. Fourth-year head coach Brian Kelly begins this season determined to prove that last year's run was no anomaly, and that ND is here to stay as a national player. Temple has a new head coach, young Matt Rhule, who takes command of a 4-7 squad light on sure-things. The Owls did employ plenty of young kids a year ago, lending hope that those rookies are better positioned to contribute in 2013.
Why Temple Might Win: While the Owls don't boast any obvious strengths, other than possibly linebacker, it has a fighter's chance in South Bend, because the Irish won't blow out many teams this year. The ND offense, which was necrotic at times in 2012, is moving forward without its quarterback, top two rushers and most consistent receiver, TE Tyler Eifert. Temple wants to keep the score low and then pop off a big play from RB Kenny Harper or WR Jalen Fitzpatrick out of the new no-huddle, pro-style attack.
Why Notre Dame Might Win: Manti Te'o might be gone, but the Irish is every bit as stout as it was a year ago. This will once again be a grown-up D in South Bend, spearheaded by Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III and Prince Shembo in the front seven. If the Owls break into double-digits against this Irish group, it'll probably be because of a turnover or a special teams breakdown. Now that RB Montel Harris has graduated, Temple lacks the workhorse to keep drives from stalling.
Who To Watch Out For: It's Tommy Rees' team now that Golson is on the shelf. Rees won't wow anyone with his arm strength, but the veteran of 18 starts knows how to win.

- The biggest beneficiary—by far—from the hiring of Rhule has been junior QB Connor Reilly. Unused in his first two seasons, he has the strong arm to excel as a passer … when Notre Dame isn't the opponent.

- With a blowout likely, this will be Irish fans' first chance to get a good look at two of the gems of the 2013 recruiting class, RB Greg Bryant and LB Jaylon Smith.

- How does Kelly divvy up the carries on offense this fall? He's got disparate options, from Bryant and George Atkinson III to Amir Carlisle, the USC transfer, who missed 2012 to an injury.

What Will Happen: The journey begins anew for Notre Dame, which wants to prove that 2012 was no fluke. Temple is in many ways an ideal opening day opponent, an FBS squad that can be treated like a sparring partner. The Irish will clip the Owls' wings on defense, while getting enough out of Rees and the running backs to not break a sweat in the second-half.
Prediction: Notre Dame 40 … Temple 6
Line: Notre Dame -30 o/u: 53
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 2

Ohio (0-0) at Louisville (0-0) Sept. 1, 3:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Louisville begins 2013 with sky-high expectations and a No. 9 ranking in both the AP and the Coaches polls. Teddy Bridgewater is a Heisman contender, head coach Charlie Strong is all the rage and life in the far more prestigious ACC begins in 2014. The Cards are trending in such a fashion that anything less than a perfect season against a soft schedule will be considered a disappointment. A visit from Ohio this Sunday is actually one of Louisville's trickier outings. The Bobcats are perennially feisty and well-coached under Frank Solich, averaging nine wins over the last four seasons. The program, though, is still seeking that elusive MAC championship, which it hasn't hoisted since 1968.
Why Ohio Might Win: Led by three steady veterans, Solich, QB Tyler Tettleton and RB Beau Blankenship, the Bobcats won't be rattled by a trip to Papa John's Stadium. This is the same trio that helped guide Ohio to an upset of Penn State in Happy Valley last opening weekend. The Louisville D is not without its seams, struggling at times to make stops on third down and on north-south running plays. The blue-collar styles of Tettleton and Blankenship can milk the clock and keep Bridgewater off the field.
Why Louisville Might Win: The Bobcats better play ball-control, because their defense is dotted with new starters. Not only is Bridgewater one of the game's best passers, but his cast of receivers is big, deep and talented. The addition of Michael Dyer to a backfield that already included Senorise Perry and Dominique Brown ensures that the Cardinals can pepper Ohio with balance and well-timed play-action passes.
Who To Watch Out For: The Bobcats are thrilled about the return of CB Travis Carrie, one of many players who lost time to injury in 2012. Scouts will be watching No. 18 closely, as he attempts to slow down DeVante Parker and the Louisville receivers.

- If Louisville has any hopes of running the table and getting into the national championship discussion, it has to clean up its special teams. The Cards were brutal in this area a year ago.

- So how much does Dyer play on Sunday? Or Perry, for that matter, who's coming back from an ACL tear? Brown should be the busiest of the Louisville backs.

- Someone needs to incite the Cardinals' pass rush this season. That someone could be coordinator Vance Bedford, who plans to blitz more this season.

- Louisville is replacing last year's top two blockers. Fortunately, the O-line gets a huge break this week since Ohio has no returning starters along the D-line.

What Will Happen: While Tettleton and Blankenship lead a plucky bunch of Bobcats, wholesale changes on defense will prevent another opening day upset. Louisville could be a little rusty after spending the offseason being pat on the back. Bridgewater will snap his teammates out of a brief funk, carving up an Ohio back seven that doesn't match up well with the Cardinals skill players.
Prediction: Louisville 36 … Ohio 20
Line: Louisville -20.5 o/u: 58
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 3